HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A man who got sick with Hepatitis A during last year's outbreak is demanding money from Genki Sushi and the chain's food suppliers, and he isn't alone.
Lawyers are embroiled in dozens of cases related to the outbreak, including 3 class-action lawsuits. Damages from the collection of cases could potentially reach millions of dollars.
Even though none of the suits claim that Genki intentionally served tainted food, attorneys for the plaintiffs say the company and its suppliers are still responsible.
"I always ordered the scallops," said Jason Smith, of Kaimuki.
Smith, a pest control worker, says he loved eating scallops at several Genki Sushi restaurants across Oahu, going to the chain around one or two times per week until something went wrong last June.
"I looked in the mirror and, what the heck. My eyes were yellow. I turned on the bright light and my skin was yellow," he said.
Smith said he lost his appetite, could barely eat and dropped rough 40 to 45 pounds. He eventually went to the emergency room.
Smith was just one of the 292 people who fell ill during the outbreak. The Department of Health pinpointed the illness, saying it came from tainted scallops at Genki restaurants on Oahu and Kauai. The scallops came from the Philippines.
"You have a number of individual plaintiffs, with claims that run in the tens of thousands of dollars to claims that could exceed million dollars, where there was a fatality," said the plaintiff's attorney, Trevor Brown of Starn, O'Toole, Marcus and Fisher.
Brown says his firm has about 70 cases with another mainland firm that specializes in hepatitis-A cases. Instead of lawsuits, many of these cases are being negotiated outside of court.
"The law is pretty clear that if you eat contaminated food, that people who provided it and the people who provided it to them are responsible," said Brown.
Genki Sushi would not comment about the cases, but in court today their lawyers, along with suppliers Koha Foods and Sea Port Products, argued to consolidate the cases and 3 class action lawsuits. Now one judge will hear them all.
"We've worked with all the parties in creating this platform that the court can use to be efficient in handling all the cases in regards to this outbreak," said Genki Sushi attorney, Stefan Reinke.
Attorneys on both sides are in agreement, saying they'd like to consolidate the cases to avoid potentially long and and more costly legal messes. That's also something Smith says he wants, along with compensation for his family, but when asked if Smith would eat at Genki again, he firmly said 'no.'